Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

December 9th, 2003


Although the formation of an EU constitution has been out of the headlines for a while now, the process is still slowly churning along. Compromises have already been made on the number of commissioners with voting rights, and there well may be a few more fudges towards the end.

The big sticking point is that of voting weights in the Council of Ministers. Spain and Poland want to retain their disproportionately large voting power rather than the double majority rule in the proposed constitution. The double majority is a majority of member states (giving small members disproportionate say) representing at least 60% of the EU population.

The double majority is easy to understand and has a nice symmetry to it. Large member states can’t push through legislation without support of over half of the states, and the elected governments representing at least 60% of the population must agree with it. This is on top of getting agreement from the directly elected European Parliament.

The current Council voting system (from the treaty of Nice) is not based on any logic, it was simply the result of negotiation. There’s no justification for the rules: Spain has more votes than its population would suggest because, well, its Spain.

Most of the (considerable) mistakes that are made in the EU are blamed on “Brussels” (meaning the Commission, although in practise often implicating the European Parliament). This voting mess that Spain and Poland are trying to retain is a classic example of what having Nation States fighting for their own interests means. The ridiculus and expensive commute of the whole European Parliament to Strasbourg is another.

If the members of European Union want the institutions of the Union to be taken seriously then they need to be willing to set them up in a sensible and understandable fashion. The constitution doesn’t go as far as it should on this front, but its a lot better than the current arrangement. I’m hoping that the other member states stick to their guns on this one and retain the double majority.

December 7th, 2003

The view from the office

On Friday I brought my camera with me to the office. The weather was mixed, but by evening things had mostly cleared up.

Downtown Toronto

This is the view I’ve got from my desk, taken shortly before dusk.

December 4th, 2003


Today I finally made good use of the daily backups that my computer performs.

Many months ago I wrote a Python script, RSyncBackup, to perform incremental backups onto a separate harddrive. Having a snapshot of my home directory, and thirty days worth of changes to it, has rarely been useful, but always reassuring. Today however, I’m very glad that I have it.

This evening I need to pull out an email I had received earlier in the week, but when I looked for it I couldn’t find it. A few seconds later I realised that I had two emails from today, and then the next oldest was from 2002! I am guessing that I must have corrupted my email inbox when I killed my email client (Evolution) earlier in the day.

Thankfully I have my daily backup! The last snapshot was from yesterday evening, so I could simple export todays email, restore from this backup, and import todays email back again. Nothing has been lost, and I’ll definitely be more careful killing off Evolution in future.

December 3rd, 2003

Journal block

It is easy to not update my Journal, far easier in fact than it is to update it. Over the last week I’ve taken many photos but none of them have are good enough to be worth posting here. Hopefully I can take some better photos over this next weekend, which might in turn inspire me to write something!

November 23rd, 2003

Weekend report

Sunset behined a treeMost of this weekend was consumed by photography, or processing the resulting pictures. I’ve become much more aggressive in the number of photos I’m willing to thow away, which is helping to reduce the storage problem.

I forgot to note that last week I received another bug report for SimpleTAL. This time it’s an edge case where a tal:define is used to define a local variable which references the value of another variable that is also defined in the same command. (Confused yet?). If you happen across this problem and need it fixing email me and I’ll send you the patch. It’ll be fixed in the next release (thanks to William Trenker for finding and reporting it).

November 21st, 2003

Moving offices

Today I moved office, down from the 35th floor to the 31st. The new location is actually rather nicer than the old one, with a large set of windows directly over looking downtown. Sunset over TorontoNext week, weather permitting, I’ll take my camera in and take a few snaps.

As I was packing up my desk on Thursday in preparation for the move I caught sight of the sunset from my old desk. I happened to have my camera with me because we’d had the first blue sky all week, so I took a few photos. It’s not the best picture of a sunset in the world, but it’s not bad.

November 17th, 2003

Annual Toronto Santa Parade

For the past couple of years, at around this time of year, I’ve heard on the radio adverts and discussion regarding Toronto’s Santa parade. Curiosity about the parade was only one reason that I went to see it this year, the other reason being to take some photos.

Flautists in a marching band.I took over 200 in the space of a couple of hours, and as is the way of these things, half were fairly poor. The weather was heavily overcast with very little light available, so I had to use an ISO 400 setting with the aperture set as wide as I could go (f/3.5-4.5 depending on zoom) just to keep camera shake at bay.

Despite the challenge of the weather I managed to take over a hundred “OK” photos, of which a handful were reasonably good (to my eye at least!). I’ve taken most of these and shrunk them down for my latest public album: The 99th Annual Santa Parade. My favourite of these is the one of the flautists.

November 15th, 2003

Weekly update

It has been a fairly quiet week of work (project going well) and the odd photo taking when I could get time and light. The weather changed considerably this week, with a lightening storm on Wednesday, high winds on Thursday, and snow on Friday.

Car lights at night.I’m getting somewhere with my photography. A handful of the pictures that I’ve taken are of the quality I’m hoping for, and I feel like I’m getting better generally.

My Python script to parse gThumb comment files into a MySQL database works fine, but I’ve yet to put together a front end to make use of this information. I’ll probably start with a quick and dirty web front end because that’s easiest to code.

I’m thinking of releasing a maintenance release of PubTal soon that will include the AbiWord and OpenOffice plugins. If anyone has any stray feature requests or bug reports outstanding, now would be a good time to let me know.

November 9th, 2003

A weekend of photography

I’ve spent most of the weekend messing around with my camera, in the process taking well over 200 photos. I went for a walk in Dufferin Grove park on Saturday morning, and then wandered along College Street for a while. Today I walked along Queen Street West most of the way into downtown. Most the photos I’ve taken are average, but a few good ones came out. I feel like I’m getting better, with more shots turning out than before, but I still have much left to learn.

Squirrel climbing tree. I also need to come up with a system that allows me to manage all of the photos I’m taking in a better fashion. I’ve taken over 600MB of photos in the last week, which means that disk space (particularly on my backup drives) is rapidly becoming an issue. If I archive to CD I will need a way of finding photos that I know I’ve taken, which means I need to associate keywords with each photo.

I’m thinking of using a combination of MySQL and gThumb with some Python scripts acting as glue between them. Description and location information can be entered using gThumb, and then I can bring that into MySQL using some Python scripts. I can then knock together a simple web interface to enable searching of my photos.

November 5th, 2003

Full frills websites

We are planning to be in Venice for Christmas this year, and so we are considering whether we can pop over to the UK for New Year. Looking for a price between Venice and the UK I tried a variety of different airlines, and I’m far more impressed with the “No frills” websites than the normal carriers.

Take for example EasyJet versus BA. With EasyJet you select your language first, then you can select a starting airport, and then a corresponding destination airport. With BA you select your country of residence which in turn dictates both the language and available starting airports.

I live in Canada, can read English, and want to fly from Venice to the UK and back. EasyJet let’s me do this, but BA only let’s me choose between Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Unless I learn to read Italian and pretend to live in Italy.

Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

Email: colin at